With the holiday season approaching our taste buds are in full force! Pumpkin spice lattes and peppermint bark cheesecakes will begin to surround us at every corner and our salivary glands will constantly be reminded of our favorite holiday treats. Now as much as our taste buds may love us for diving into these temptations any chance we get, months of overindulging could be not so good for our waistline. After all, we work so hard the other eight months of the year to feel our very best so why would we want to jeopardize it all in the matter of three? Well have no fear, we can still enjoy our favorite holiday foods without sacrificing our health by just making a few simple adjustments. Check it out!
It’s not Thanksgiving without homemade stuffing (so don’t worry I am not going to tell you to give this classic dish up) but this classic recipe could use a little tweaking. Stuffing is a carb heavy dish and though carbs give us energy, when we consume too much of it, especially simple carbohydrates, (i.e. white breads, white pasta) it gets stored as fat. No thank you!
Here’s the skinny:
Try Martha Stewart’s Harvest-Stuffing recipe which uses whole wheat italian bread-crumbs and adds in shiitake mushrooms. The whole wheat bread is metabolized slowly in the body and its added fiber content fills us up on less of it. Bonus: shiitake mushrooms are superfood goddesses! They contain antioxidants and are best known for their aid in immune support. Now this is a stuffing you can feel good about!
Sweet potato casserole
Just the sound of sweet potato casserole has my mouth watering! Sweet potatoes are a nutrient rich root vegetable, high in potassium with a natural sweet flavor while being low in sugar. Even though they are a nutrient dense food option once we add in the butter, sugar and marshmallows to make a casserole, it loses its nutritious appeal.
Here’s the skinny:
Check out this sweet potato casserole recipe where it swaps out the marshmallows, butter, and sugar with orange zest, honey, and pecans. These simple swaps cut the calories in half and still satisfy your savory sweet tooth! Win!
For many of us it’s not the holidays without our holiday bird roasting in the oven. Yes, we can all appreciate our early evening nap after filling our plates with mounds of tryptophan-loaded turkey goodness. Luckily, poultry is a nutritious component of a holiday meal and the high protein content helps fill us up.
Here’s the skinny:
Dark meat gets a bad rap for being high calorically and in saturated fat so many people watching their weight avoid it during the holidays. Turns out dark meat is a little over 30 calories more than white meat AND it’s loaded with added nutrients like iron and zinc which many individuals are low in. If you are really concerned about the saturated fat content avoid the skin. My advice is to mix it up between dark and white meat for added flavor and nutrients!
Side Note: Every wonder why dark meat is “dark” and “white” meat is white? The biggest difference is the dark meat is usually located in the bird’s wings and thighs which if you think about it are more heavily used by the animal than the white meat present in their breast area. The wings and thighs contain myoglobin which brings oxygen to these active muscles giving it a darker color.
Eat muscle to gain muscle? I like that idea!
Pies just scream holidays and who wants to say no to pie whether it’s apple, pumpkin, or pecan?
Here’s the skinny:
Gluten free pie crust made from brown rice tortilla means no fuss crust! The best thing about this recipe is that there is very minimal sugar added and no white flour. The sugar and white flour used in typical apple pie recipes is known as simple carbohydrates or simple sugars, basically because that’s what it contains; pure, simple, straight up sugar. Simple sugars raise insulin levels quickly and leaves our bodies craving more of it sooner. Complex carbohydrates are absorbed much slower maintaining regular insulin levels. Other perks of complex carbohydrates are they are loaded with fiber which keep you fuller longer and prevent you from reaching for those seconds you really don’t need! Side note: If you have a grill, grilling the apples will give this dish a nice toasty feel!
● Chew your bites thoroughly. It is actually recommended to chew your food until it’s in complete liquid form to help with digestion. I recommend at least counting to 40. By chewing your food slowly and thoroughly this will help your body recognize you’re full sooner preventing you from eating more than you really need. PLUS, did you know that after about 4 – 5 bites of food your taste sensations dwindle and are no longer as delicious as the first ones? So savor those first couple of decadent bites and you’ll be more than satisfied!
● Stock up on veggies! There are so many ways to get creative and festive with vegetables during the holidays! By loading your plate with nutrient dense vegetables you’ll be less likely to overindulge in some less nutritious options. Here’s a recipe for a vegetable that is renowned for its anti-inflammatory properties: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/roasted-garlic-asparagus-364212
● Don’t deprive yourself! It’s important to focus on the food options that are healthy for you rather than labeling foods as “bad” or off limits. The more you restrict yourself the more likely you are to over do it. Being realistic is key and by knowing you have options and that no food is off-limits (unless of course you have food sensitivities, allergies, or a medical condition) will help keep you on track.
● Enjoy! The holidays are about spending time with your loved ones and should not be consumed with being stressed about food. If you absolutely have to have you mom’s delicious pecan pie then go for it! Don’t feel bad BUT do remember to make swaps with your other food choices where you can. Balance is everything.
Got questions for Regina, our nutrition intern? Come over to the NFPT Facebook Page and ask away!
Regina Pellegrino is a certified Health Coach throughThe Institute for Integrative Nutrition, as well as a certified Fitness Specialist through San Diego Mesa College. She is currently working towards her accreditation as a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. Her goal is to spread her thirst for knowledge and passion for living a healthy lifestyle by helping others achieve their optimal health. Learn more about Regina at http://